Deck the halls with boughs of holly. The merry season is upon us. Which means the socialites (and socially awkward) are readying themselves for what’s ahead: a ceremonious office Christmas party and catch-up dinners or drinks with family and close friends.
Whether you’re a one-party-wonder or known to ride the drinks train for all it’s worth, getting prepped for the food-coma, liver destruction time of year shouldn’t derail us from choosing a solid party outfit – and looking darn good.
These six style rules are your party season checklist. If Santa – the man who single-handedly delivers millions of presents across the globe in one night – sees the value in taking festive notes to get the job done, then we should too. Merry Christmas!
#1 Don’t Relax (Just Yet)
Like Santa, you’re gonna want to make a list of all the evening wear goodies hanging in your closet at present. Chances are, that luscious velvet dinner jacket or precious silk-wool trouser haven’t been worn (or dry cleaned) since last party season. So, it’s vital to know – a week at least before the big night arrives – that your tailoring is clean and fresh, and that your white shirt is neatly pressed (no red wine stains).
If you’re expected to attend multiple parties this season, stock up on a few shirts and perhaps another bow tie and pocket square. This way you won’t be rushing to the cleaners before the next party kicks-on (sometimes the following evening). And you’ll have something slightly different to wear for each function. No one likes a one-outfit-wonder, Scrooge.
#2 Follow Dress Codes
While most parties are wear-what-you-want, some have severe dress codes. Traditions must be observed when invited á la black tie: a bow tie, turn down collar and tuxedo jacket being the most obvious elements. Peak lapel dinner jackets with a satiny, sheen lapel are very en vogue this season, sat over flat front pants and well-polished shoes – all in black.
The bow tie is the trickiest to nail. First rule: make sure you tie your own bow tie manually. Then, the bow tie should never sit perfectly – like a horrible pre-tied bow will. While we’re fans of style efficiencies, the latter symbolises a lack of sartorial game; looking technically amateur among colleagues and friends. Step up to the challenge and tie your own bow tie.
#2 Vamp Up The Tux
Like the spring races, the party season should be approached with bravado. This starts with the jacket and trouser combination. The key is finding stylish alternatives to the boring black suit or tux. And hotting things up with different fabrics, colours and by nailing that all-important fit.
The style is in the details this season. As most men get accustomed to dressing themselves well, standing out requires something bold like a velvet jacket in burgundy, teamed with pitch black pants and patent Derbies – perhaps in a creeper sole for something edgy.
Black watch check is another style statement this season; the black and greenish-blue plaid adding visual interest to a pair of formal trousers. And why not try a pair of suede loafers instead of traditional evening shoes?
The only rule? Match a lair-ish jacket with a neutral trouser – and vice versa. It’s double trouble if you go full-throttle – both top and bottom.
#3 (A Little Bit) More Casual
You might not be attending the suavest dinner party this season. Which is why flexibility is key. Sticking to black tailoring, replace the butterfly bow tie and starchy white shirt for a black shirt, creating black-on-black tonality. Or a bold floral print under a pastel blazer for something tastefully summer.
A clean cut denim shirt looks dapper under a navy double-breasted blazer – and pastel grey cotton pants for a masculine partnership. In to colour? Try pastel or muted neutral separates – ensuring one item – jacket or trouser – is a solid base colour to anchor the outfit. And then pop on a woven tie for extra va-va-voom.
A roll neck fine-gauge sweater is great shirt replacement for winter Euro festivities – serving as one of the most versatile smart casual pieces this season under a suit jacket. If you’re going more casual, keep the rest classy – investing in a buttery leather Chelsea boot or black Derby brogue. Shoe-game, be strong.
#4 Christmas Bling
Clean cut, elegant cufflinks are traditional party season accessories for the french cuff gent. Copper is an on trend metal this season while brassy gold and silver are more classic cufflinks with a subtle gem or motif.
A statement ring – signet or plain band – is a sure-fire way to add some shine to your fingers – sticking to one or two so not to over-do the jewellery. And bracelets are an eclectic way to shimmy up your wrist (replacing or complementing the cufflink). Don’t be afraid to mix metals and look to leather or textile coloured varieties for textural difference.
Finally, pocket squares complete a look. Whether it’s a suit, separate jacket or a tie or no tie occasion, a silk pocket square can make the outfit. Look to silky polka dots or a sassy geometric print for your next pocket square. Or a block coloured piece of cloth in a deep shade neutral.
#5 New Hair, Don’t Care
If you’ve been contemplating a hair change, why not let the festive season welcome in the schmick, new you? Get ahead of others’ New Year’s resolutions and get this season’s chop: short on the sides with a bit of length on top – to slick and tussle at your will.
If it’s an outdoor party (and there’s a chance of wind or rain) forgo a towering pompadour (as it’s sure to come to a flat mess). For a sure-fire way to stay cool, go for the slick styles like a classic side parting and use some strong hold hair product. Or – if you’re Sir Smooth, go for a buzz cut. Nothing says ‘new beginnings’ like a shaved head. Just don’t go ‘bald’ short. It’s not military camp.
#6 Be A Conversationalist
Christmas parties often see us seated next to the partner of the boss (or the boss him/herself). So having something lighted-heartedly intelligent to inject into the table talk is super important. We haven’t been filling your minds lately with interestingly pointless facts for no reason, so tap into these conversation starters first.
However, the conversation is bound to dry up at some point. So let others talk. And if what your conversation partner is discussing is utter dulls-ville, be polite all the same: maintain eye contact, smile considerately and do the reaffirming nod and ‘yes, of course’ routine when its appropriate – signalling interest intermittently.
Why’s it so important? It could be a future employer or his darling wife that you made the effort to flatter – with your time and kind words – this past half-hour. That’s the thing about the party season: you never know who you’ll meet – or brush shoulders with.